What’s Wrong With Our Society, 2.4: Justice and “Jersey Shore”
Last week’s episode of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” centered around the bizarre relationship that Sammi and Ronnie have constructed over the past season and a half. As such, I considered skipping it entirely. Or, it seems, I put it off for a week.
And what happened in the intervening week?
Well, I realized that there’s a compelling philosophical question — at least as old as Plato’s Republic — at the heart of the Sammi/Ronnie drama and it’s pulling the whole gang apart. That is, what is owed to a friend?
According to Cephalus, in Book I of the Republic, justice is telling the truth and paying one’s debts; for his son, Polemarchus, justice consists of giving to each what is owed, or doing good to friends and harm to enemies. From these two definitions, it seems clear that friendship is a critically important relationship and that the just man or woman takes very seriously the bonds of friendship.
Now, as everyone knows, Ronnie has been making a spectacle of himself at the club and then returning home to express his undying love for Sammi (who, of course, knows nothing of his actions with other women). Sammi’s close friends — J-WOWW and Snooki — feel that they ought to tell Sammi about Ronnie’s bad behavior … but they just can’t seem to bring themselves to do it. Sammi, of course, doesn’t make things any easier by repeatedly telling her friends that she will hate them forever if they know something and aren’t telling her.
As a consequence, then, everyone is talking about Sammi and how badly she will feel once she finds out about Ronnie (whenever she’s not around) … but no one is prepared to actually bring the matter out into the open. Angelina decides that her position will be to lie: she says that she knows nothing and she tells those who know everything that she knows that this will be her position. J-WOWW and Snooki, however, think that they must tell Sammi … so they decide to type up and send her an anonymous letter. They get as far as typing it but they fail to deliver it to her.
The heart of the matter is this: should the friends tell Sammi about Ronnie’s behavior, even though it will hurt her? Are they bad friends if they fail to do so, as Sammi suggests would be the case? And, worse still, are they acting unjustly if they fail to do so, as Cephalus and Polemarchus would argue?
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All of my “Jersey Shore” posts can be found here.